Higher Education System – The Weakest Link of MENA’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Higher Education System – The Weakest Link of MENA's Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

  • Education & training, and the role of universities in developing entrepreneurs – both key pillars of an effective entrepreneurial ecosystem – are the least developed in the Middle East & Africa, as per entrepreneurs trying to grow their companies in the region.
  • The higher education system in the region is public and controlled by the political class, thereby denying universities the necessary academic freedom to breed next generation entrepreneurs.
  • Courses specific to developing communication and presentation skills of young graduates and future entrepreneurs are missing, and the brain drain following the Arab Spring has further depleted the quality of the region’s graduating workforce.
The higher education system in MENA is the weakest link of the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. This seems to be the key takeaway of a recent report by the World Economic Forum that compares the Entrepreneurial Ecosystems Around the Globe. As per the report, entrepreneurs worldwide view accessible markets, funding & finance, and human capital & workforce as the three most important pillars when it comes to the growth of their companies.
And while Middle East & Africa (MEA) is better placed as compared to other in emerging markets like Asia and South America in terms of market accessibility and access to funding, the region has the least developed human capital workforce among all the regions, required for the development and growth of a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem. And the reason is not very hard to find.
Education & training, and the role of universities in developing entrepreneurs, both key pillars of an effective ecosystem, are the least developed in the MEA as per entrepreneurs trying to grow their companies in the region. Therefore, it is not surprising that the region has the least developed human capital workforce worldwide, and human capital is cited as the biggest challenge to growth by entrepreneurs in MEA.
Higher Education System – The Weakest Link of MENA's Entrepreneurial Ecosystem1
Source: World Economic Forum – Entrepreneurial Ecosystems Around the Globe and Company Growth Dynamics
Entrepreneurs were asked to identify which of the eight pillars of an entrepreneurial ecosystem were readily available to them as they built their venture.
Most of the higher education system in the region is public and controlled by the political class, thereby denying universities the necessary academic freedom to breed next generation entrepreneurs. Education is a political topic in the region and the recent Arab Spring has only heightened the scrutiny faced by the academia as the political class tries to maintain its control over the content and pedagogy.
As a result, universities are denied the intellectual and academic freedom to develop degrees and content aimed at covering key subjects core to creating a successful business (such as business planning and risk management), with coursework consisting of specialised seminars in which students create business plans to be presented to angel investors or venture capitalists.
Courses specific to developing communication and presentation skills of young graduates and future entrepreneurs are missing. A May 2013 report – Unlocking Arab Youth Entrepreneurship Potential – by entrepreneurship training NGO Injaz al Arab highlighted that schools in the region are schools are focused on rote learning and memorisation rather than problem solving and critical thinking, and that CEOs in the region felt that the education system does not provide graduates with the necessary skills like communication, presentation, teamwork, analytical thinking, and initiative, all critical to developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem
The political instability caused by the Arab Spring has also resulted in a brain drain, as the best lecturers (and students!) in the region have decided to leave the region for better opportunities in developed nations. As per University World News, other problems facing universities in the region included lack of research and publication, challenges of accessibility and quality, and low levels of student and scientific mobility and innovation. The result of these problems is a workforce that is not ready for the development of an effective entrepreneurial ecosystem. This sentiment was further echoed by global entrepreneurship NGO Endeavor, which found that 39% MENA companies cited an inadequately educated workforce as their biggest problem.
Therefore, it is important for governments in the region who view entrepreneurs and their ventures as a vehicle for driving growth and reducing unemployment in their countries, to strengthen their respective higher education systems by giving higher degree of freedom to existing universities with respect to course content and pedagogy, increasing domestic- and foreign- private player participation in the higher education sector to bring in global best practices, tapping successful entrepreneurs living abroad for their advice and connections, and developing more training programs for entrepreneurs, among others.

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

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Trapped in an old leadership? Think outside the box!

Trapped in an old leadership

 

  • Successful business owners should be able to win over and work with people who they do not have any leverage over. This skill can positively surprise you by opening new business avenues.
  • Showing an interest in others will be huge step towards bridging the gap of trust and building a relationship
  • Leaders that are skilled at demonstrating their appreciation for others will gather more cooperation and results than the commander style dictator in most situations.
  • This is why responsible business owners are encouraged to adopt and practice appreciation and humanity with the very people that they have gathered to fight for their everyday interests and those of their business survival.

One of the best ways for leaders today to embrace the concept of inspirational leadership could be to imagine the character played by Tom Hanks in the film, “Castaway.” He plays the central character, a logistic company employee who survives a plane crash, and finds himself marooned on a deserted island. The story unfolds predictably as to how the victim or hero rises to meet the challenges of surviving alone without anyone in sight coming to the rescue.

Moving slightly away from the script, imagine, how a business owner would welcome one or two people they might accidentally meet on the island, who could offer assistance to reach home. How could a business owner achieve this without having power over them or being able to use money as an incentive? After considering modern day leadership demands, it seems to be a wonderful canvass of opportunity to explore this scenario.

Logic can lead us to the possibility that these new people would be instantly appreciated by the business owner with enthusiasm. What tools would or could they use to win over the cooperation of these strangers that have no allegiance or interest to assist their departure from the island? They have no leverage, no ability to give rewards, so what then could happen?

It seems that in order to gain cooperation willingly, the stranded business owner will soon discover that showing an interest in others will be huge step towards bridging the gap of trust and building a relationship.  If they decide they are too important to take time to do that, they may find the other potential helpers either turn their backs and walk away, or eat them.

However, if they play their cards right, and show a genuine interest in the people whom they are recruiting to collaborate with, chances are much higher that they will in-fact begin to see successes. So how does the modern day business person survive in everyday circumstances that involve the challenge of leading people while engaging their willing cooperation and involvement?

It begins with the same behaviors that were deployed by the stranded business owner alone on a deserted island. Leaders that are skilled at demonstrating their appreciation for others will gather more cooperation and results than the commander style dictator in most situations. Empathy, coaching, inspiring and motivating with more than financial gain as the carrot, will drive business faster and further to growth. Employees today need not wait on the weekly newspaper ads to find their own boat off of the island; they can go online and do an immediate search the instant they feel unappreciated or unable to grow.

This is why responsible business owners are encouraged to adopt and practice appreciation and humanity with the very people that they have gathered to fight for their everyday interests and those of their business survival. Inspirational Leadership employs many more tools, one of these is establishing the big picture and how each of these people play a vital role in insuring that goals of the enterprise are reached. As the landscape of leadership today is a potpourri of different styles, there is one thread that can tie all situations together to form a rope of unity.

Empathy. The very thought of deploying this human quality for some employers may frighten them, as their style may lean toward the commander genre. However, the opportunity for SME owners to adopt the concept will motor their voyage further and faster than the stick that drives employees out of the revolving door.

When people in an organisation are appreciated and then challenged to participate in the process of excellence, innovation, loyalty and the extra mile will become part of an amazing transformation of organizational strength. The owners’ ego which dared to envisioned the start up and creation of the business and their natural obsession to be controlling would require an adjustment in order to openly invite others to cooperate and participate in their voyage of greatness. However the rewards could become magical, if they will only dare to ‘cast away’ old leadership models for new and empowering inspirational leadership within their organisations.

The article is written by Michael J. Tolan for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

A good Player needs a good Coach

A good Player needs a good Coach

  • A Business is a person who actively listens to you; who explores options with you, and who can provide you with effective feedback to grow, and deliver better results in life.
  • The Business coaching is a very personalized development program, focusing on the current burning issues that business Leaders face, which enhances their ability to gain personal insight into the real issues in their real world and in real time
  • Being egoless is the key to continue developing, progressing and evolving. Having an Executive Coach watching from distance, guiding the player is a must if we are to evolve as High Performance Leaders.

How many times do we get overwhelmed with small stuff here and there, how many times do we find ourselves out of focus on the right things, how many of us have a clear vision and know exactly where is he or she heading, how many know how to conquer key moments, how many know how to confront harmful behavior, how many have clear boundaries and live by them, how many can say NO to certain people or situations …. So many questions in mind.

We, human beings, share exactly the same issues, and we face similar situations in life. But looking at things from distance has a totally different meaning. I had no idea that finding the right person, who actively listens to you; who explores options with you, and who can provide you with effective feedback to grow, and deliver better results in life do exist and it’s called a Business Coach.

After spending more than 25 years in the corporate world; assuming different positions from a simple cashier to a group CEO of a multimillion company; where I learned things the hard way. And as most of us, acted stupidly in certain disruptive situations, letting my ego control, or even my emotions and wrong beliefs rule. I decided to get out of my comfort zone, and challenge my purpose in life, to find out that there is untapped potential we all have, but it needs to be unleashed at the right time, and with the right approach.  Hence, I left the corporate world, and started my own business focusing on empowering others.

While developing different leadership programs, I started reading and researching about what make good CEOs succeed, and why some CEOs excel in their Organizations, while others fail miserably despite their strong abilities, my findings were very simple, summarized by A good player needs a good Coach.

Business Coaching facilitates and supports leaders discover their excellence and strength to move them to peak performance, while opening their eyes to some potential beliefs impacting their success.  It is targeted oriented, and provides leaders the framework to stay focused on doing the right things, not only doing things right. In other way, the Business Coach provides and charts the pathway to success.

Unlike the regular training programs we all attend. The Business coaching is a very personalized development program, focusing on the current burning issues that business Leaders face, which enhances their ability to gain personal insight into the real issues in their real world and in real time. Moreover, while being Coached, Business Leaders clarify their vision, and get encouraged to be fearless while translating their vision into reality, leveraging their unique qualities in service of positive change.

In the Arab World, the idea of business coaching to top management is still not entirely supported, as the “We know it all phenomena” still dominates. Being egoless is the key to continue developing, progressing and evolving. Having an Executive Coach watching from distance, guiding the player to do more of this, and less of that, challenging the beliefs and the actions; and enabling personal transformation is a must if we are to evolve as High Performance Leaders.. I keep saying I wish I had a coach when I was a CEO; my life would have been much easier.

The article is written by Majd Shweikeh for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Business Transformation – A way forward to Refresh & Re-build the Market Positioning

Business Transformation

 

  • Continuously re-creating market positioning is a challenge faced by every organization in today’s highly competitive market.
  • Progressive organizations are able to deal with this on a pro-active basis, nut most others are unable to match their internal shifts with the fast changing external market dynamics
  • Therefore, ongoing and periodic business transformation is not only a good to have activity, but one of the most critical business driver today.

In today’s competitive era, every organization is facing the critical challenge on; 

“How to stay Competitive & continuously re-create it’s market positioning”? 

If I dwell into fundamental of this question, it gets started with the past success formula which itself can become bottleneck in staying agile or bring fresh perspective to organizational reality.

While a progressive organization is able to deal with this on a pro-active basis, quite a few organizations are almost hitting the “Death Curve” as they are not able to cope up with the external changes and lack speed of internal shift.

I have tried substantiating my perspective with a real case study … 

This company which has been into existence for more than 20 years, holding market leadership and has highest manufacturing capacity to serve the market demand. The earlier success had contributed in the company culture of working at the internal comfort and did not realize that in an external world “Go to Market” time has been reducing for any new entrant in the market.

This company was hit by the crisis as one of their largest customer turned into a competition. The situation had worsened when the departed customer had poached talented team members across the levels. The company’s other facts also had become a bottleneck like retaining internal resources, encourage employment opportunity in generations, operating from remote work locations, decision making time, & already built extra production capacity.

To deal with this near to death situation, company had to give a hard look to it’s current situation and draw a comprehensive transformational plan. They had to choose any one from the below two options:

Business Transformation-1

As they were known to build sustainable management practice rather than adopting the quick fix approach, they chose to work on the later option..

Business Transformation-2

The company had to build internal change team from various functional groups and the task force was led by one of the board member. The design and implementation of Business Transformation Framework was accomplished in 5- 8 months’ time frame.

The massive project ended on the following notes:

  • Company has started reusing 85 % of the capacity and re captured 8 % lost market share.
  • The company built it’s human resources with equal balance of home grown and vibrant fresh talent from outside
  • The new well-articulated competency framework has allowed to create two level back up for each critical position
  • Built internal organizational excellence team who will continuously focus on making internal business processes to keep it agile
  • Resilience has been ingrained as part of the DNA in organization culture

This experience has helped the company to build internal business case and put up a mandate at board level to auto-run the transformation activities every 3-5 years irrespective of crisis situation.

As an Organizational transformation specialist, I strongly believe that Business transformation is not a “Good to have activity” but “The most Critical Business Driver” in today’s competitive world.

 

The article is written by Ashish Patel for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

 

 

Telling Business Tales from the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’

Telling Business Tales from the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’

 

  • In the recent Hollywood flick, beneath Jordan Belfort’s corruption, there are a number of key lessons that leaders need to learn from his success.
  • Leaders need to attract, engage and tantalize the imaginations of their team members, to get the best out of them.
  • They need to give their team members a compelling reason to take consistent action, through incentives and performance management techniques
  • Big dreams with a strong base of ethics is the right mix for being a strong and successful leader.
Martin Scorseses’ most recent Hollywood blockbuster has the business world talking and a few financial guys on Wall Street ducking for cover. The film unveils a brash lifestyle that claims to depict the real life escapades of Jordan Belfort and along with members of his company selling financial services and wealth management products.
 
Of course, for those who may not have read the book or seen the movie, expect a few spoilers in this article as it would make no sense at all otherwise.
 
Here are the 3 things that Jordan Belfort (The Wolf of Wall Street) did right as a leader:

1. Getting your team engaged in a powerful compelling vision: 

Leaders who are able to attract, engage and tantalize the imaginations of their fellow team members will build a fire of enthusiasm that will power their individual producers forward and spur others using the momentum.

Jordan set examples, led his team, was fearless in engaging in personal performance himself. He effectively got his team to buy into his dream of the future and these team members could begin to paint a picture of their new future with Belfort’s company in return.
 
This daily ritual of getting his team pumped and motivated could be emulated by leaders today provided that they engage in activities of an ethical nature that will provide win-win experiences for both the customer and the business.
 
 2. Creating amazing rewards for team members:
 
Giving them a compelling reason to take consistent action!
 
Telling Business Tales from the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ 1
 
Leaders today who understand that success is a mix of both inspiration and perspiration can quickly take a page out of Jordan’s book. His leadership style, brazen and wild as depicted in the film, used incentives and performance management techniques that infected some of his team members with incredible drive.
 
As a result, and as preposterous and outlandish as it seemed, he rallied his team performance by creating an eco-system of rewards and incentives within his team that impacted his bottom line. (Pun unintended).
 
3. Dare to Dream Big:
 
The Wolf was not shy about dreaming big, in fact, few people of his age and background could have had the audacity to dream so big. Of course, if you consider that big dreams are not always ethical while considering the late Ronny Biggs of the Great Train Robbery, or Jordan Belfort’s tactics.
 
Telling Business Tales from the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ 2
Ethical leaders who dare to dream big are contagious and will gather energy and enthusiasm just as a tornado gathers dust, becoming even more powerful at each new collection of souls who buy into the dream. Imagine Martin Luther King without a Big Dream, or Gandhi saying he was ready to give up, Mandela, or Steve Jobs, along with hundreds of other noteworthy examples in human history.
 
In the building of his company, Jordan used three leadership techniques and deployed them perfectly. The only problem was that he had forgotten where the line of ethical practices started and ended.
 
His short-lived rule of being the master of the universe could have been easily predicted by anyone who understands that success can never be measured in the short term trick, but the trick is to enjoy long term success ethically.
 
It is the mantle of the leader’s character that will sustain their attractiveness to others with their real inner enthusiasm, purpose, passion and integrity.
 
To know without question that your boss is honest, would support you, will always strive to do the right thing, to know that your boss does not engage or tolerate in unethical practices or behaviours helps team members sleep much better at night.
 

The article is written by Michael J. Tolan for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review